As a Community Manager I’m often asked by clients what services they should invest their time and resources in. I give them the obvious ones: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and I tell them that they can be creative with emerging social networks such as Pinterest or the new MySpace (when it opens up). But I always, always tell them that they have to have a Google+ presence. When I say this they laugh at me. They’ve read the news about how Google+ is a failure and a ghost town and they ask why they should put effort into cultivating a community when no one goes there. I quietly sit them down and explain to them why they’re wrong and why having a Google+ presence is necessary.
Google is a bit of an oddball company. Over the years they have redefined email with their GMail client, they have helped to index the news with their Google News service and they have invested heavily in bringing maps of every corner of the globe to your computer screen. When they do things right they really do things right. When they don’t…well…they become targets of mockery. Google Buzz was an attempt to take on the social networking site Twitter but it stumbled heavily right out of the gate when they failed to take into account the privacy concerns that their users had. Google Wave was an equally ambitious idea that did not resonate with the consumer. It was hoped that the real-time collaboration tool would help to replace e-mail but before it had a chance to catch on with the public Google canned it.
With a spotty history like this (and coming off several very public and costly failures) it’s not surprising that people were, and are, hesitant to spend a lot of time with Google+ seeing as the company may simply do away with it. Yet this won’t be the case with Google+. This is a service that will be around for a long time to come and here’s why:
Firstly let’s do away with the obvious. Google has money. Google has aaaaaaaaaalot of money. Google made almost 10 billion dollars in profit alone last year. It has more than 50,000 employees across a number of countries (they recently opened up a new centre in Israel) and they’re expanding every day. What does this mean? Well unlike other social media startups such as Pinterest or Instagram they don’t have to have seed rounds in order to pay their operating costs. Because of this there’s no doubt that the company will not run out of money (at least any time soon) so that fear is automatically assuaged.
When we make decisions about the parts we want to buy, the places we want to go, we’re basically looking for cues from our friends about what those things should be
Second: Google has an incredibly successful social network. Many people outside of the US or Europe (or Australia for that matter) have not heard of Orkut. Orkut debuted in the beginning of 2004 as several other major social networks were gaining traction (Friendster, MySpace and Facebook) and quietly began to gain users. Over time as MySpace gained dominance and then Facebook overtook MySpace Orkut was forgotten about in the United States. Yet it was growing heavily in Brazil and India. Today 80% of their tens of millions of users come from those two country. So whilst Google may have had public failures with Buzz and Wave they’ve also had an unbelievably quiet success.
Third: Google sees social as an integral part of search. Google redefined the way that we searched for information. Their pagerank algorithm helped propel the then small startup to the top of the pile and made it into the behemoth that we see today. They’ve invested heavily into improving search and making sure that all results are relevant. They’ve pioneered ads in search and GMail and 97% of Google’s revenue is from advertising. This means that Google is always willing to do what they can to make you click on paid adverts. The best way to get someone to click on an ad is to implement social recommendations. Social recommendations have been used in Facebook’s recently launched ‘Sponsored Stories‘. As Facebook says in its video “when we make decisions about the parts we want to buy, the places we want to go, we’re basically looking for cues from our friends about what those things should be”. Google has intertwined social recommendations into search. Whenever you search on Google (and are logged in to your Google account) you will see friends recommendations, +1s of websites and the ability to inform your friends where you are on the Internet. People are become more and more used to sharing their lives at the click of a single button and Google is counting on their users to share where they are, what they’re doing and, more importantly, what they’re buying with all of their friends.
Fourth: Speaking of friends there’s another reason that Google+ isn’t going anywhere. It already has a massive user base. Google+ has a user base of 400 million users and more than 100 million active users . Whilst that doesn’t make it the worlds largest social network it does give Google+ a massive leg up when competing with other social networks. Expect the numbers of users and active users to grow.
One of the reasons that people were so excited, and then disappointed, with Google+ is because they thought that as soon as it would be launched it would automatically be like Facebook. They expected to simply log in to Google+ and all of their friends would be there. That wasn’t going to happen. Google+ is not a Facebook clone and it never tried to be. Google+ is something in and of itself. It’s unique. It’s incredibly powerful, fast, pretty and will be a huge player in social media over the next few years. Yes there aren’t a lot of people there at the moment but they’ll come. When they do brands need to be there to greet their customers with open arms. So while you’re setting up your Facebook page for your new business….make sure to set one up at Google+ because you’re going to need it.